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President Obama Publishes an Action Plan for Biofuels
by Kristin Brekke

President Barack Obama has issued a directive to key members of his Cabinet, outlining an action plan that supports today’s ethanol production and ensures that the fuel will continue to provide economic, environmental, and energy security benefits into the future.

In the May 5 memorandum, the President explained that he is forming a Biofuels Interagency Working Group, to be led by the heads of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and Environmental Protection Agency.

Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, finds the Working Group and the action plan to be a positive for ethanol.

“President Obama’s directive ensures that biofuels will be part of America’s clean energy economy in the future,” Jennings said. “The President and his able Cabinet will launch an aggressive timetable which recognizes that agriculture will continue to play an integral role in providing income opportunities and energy security for all Americans.”

In the memo, on the subject of biofuels and rural economic development, the President noted that biofuels play a key role in the nation’s ongoing efforts to achieve energy independence, citing the 600,000 barrels of biofuels produced each day in the United States last year. He noted the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by renewable fuels production and the hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues for local, state, and federal governments, calling the production of American-made renewable fuels a “powerful engine of economic growth.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson held a press call that morning to explain the directive and the tasks the President has assigned to the Working Group, which include:

  • Developing a comprehensive national biofuel market development program, which is to include policies to increase flexible fuel vehicle production and assist retail marketing efforts.
  • Identifying new policy options to help ensure biofuels remain sustainable, including updated and science-driven lifecycle assessments of greenhouse gas emissions for fuels
  • USDA Secretary Vilsack is to immediately identify how existing USDA programs can assist corn ethanol producers, and, within 30 days, issue rules for how Farm Bill programs can help provide loan guarantees and other forms of financial support to ethanol facilities for reducing energy use and producing advanced biofuels.

“President Obama has outlined a proactive and visionary action plan for biofuels, one that will carry considerable benefits to the American economy and our nation’s quest for energy security. The American Coalition for Ethanol and its members are grateful to President Obama for outlining how biofuels will continue to play an integral role in our nation’s economic and energy security policy,” Jennings said.

“Importantly, the President’s directive will ensure that science – not politics – determine the future of biofuels, which will surely disappoint opponents of ethanol whose PR campaign has been designed to destroy public policy support for ethanol. We encourage the Interagency Working Group, led by Secretary Vilsack, to require fossil fuels undergo the same lifecycle analysis that has been imposed on biofuels, an evaluation which will show that future sources of oil are going to have some serious consequences for the environment, while future sources of biofuel are going to be even better and more sustainable than they are already.”

Some are suggesting that indirect land use changes be counted against the carbon tally of biofuels, while ignoring the indirect emissions associated with locating, extracting, and protecting the world’s supply of fossil fuels. This methodology has made it into the models being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the Renewable Fuels Standard 2 rulemaking, as well as by the State of California where its Air Resources Board has just passed the nation’s first Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The LCFS counts both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions toward biofuels, while counting only direct emissions toward fossil fuels, the Board stating that it has not identified any other significant indirect effects for petroleum.

“The President’s Interagency Working Group is the perfect place to peer review and scrutinize the assumptions that have been made to date by EPA and CARB regarding the carbon intensity of biofuels and fossil fuel, and to ensure that science drives how clean energy policies are crafted in the future,” Jennings said.

“We also praise President Obama for issuing the first presidential directive of its kind to make biofuel market development a priority, including efforts to assist in retail marketing efforts,” Jennings said. “The retail marketing efforts the President outlines can be best served through the use of ethanol blender pumps, which allow petroleum marketers the flexibility to offer unleaded plus a variety of ethanol blends from one pump. The American Coalition for Ethanol has had a market development program in place for nearly a decade, and the organization is incredibly well-positioned to assist the Administration with the experience and expertise needed for the national market development program to be a success.”

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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